SEABIRD NINE by James McVean


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From the author of Bloodspoor (1978): a lively plague novel that weaves medical research with arctic adventure and ornithology. When the US bans recombinant-DNA research, the huge Reiman Lance drug company flies a batch of hot bacteria (for anthrax antitoxin research) to Europe. . . but the plane crashes somewhere (no one can find it) near Murmansk. So, as months go by, the bacteria is released into the plane's interior, which holds cattle feed pellets now found by lemmings. And the lemmings in turn are being eaten by falcons--which lose the ability to fly (because of poisoning from the mercury in the bacteria package) and which could wipe out Europe as they spread the anthrax plague. Meanwhile, however, Jamie Douglas, a former Reiman Lance researcher, is living alone in the arctic, where he has devoted himself to ornithological research while recovering from the suicide of his wife (plus his own guilt re an experiment which killed 24 people). And now Jamie is starting to collect mysteriously ill falcons that can't fly--a puzzle which leads him to Amsterdam (to see recluse-genius Professor Fabre), to France, Kuwait, and Alaska (in search of falcon blood specimens to isolate the illness strain). Also helping: 17-year-old Maria Yrraburri, who--inspired by Jamie's plea to assist him in saving the whole falcon species--treks alone through the arctic for blood specimens. Eventually Professor Fabre figures out how the falcons got sick; and Jamie, now trying to save all mankind, finds himself up against his old drug company, the Pentagon, and several other bad guys. With a final, ice-whipped shoot-'em-up at the site of the plane crash--a spirited recycling of the basically familiar plague scenario, enlivened by some clever variations sure to appeal to bird-lovers.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1981
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan